Athenian Democracy Essay

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Before democracy, Athens was a city-state no different than any other. A few powerful, aristocratic families controlled all governing power. Most of the population held little or no role in the political life of the city. Athenians changed this, and created a system where participation was encouraged and opinions were valued. While some other Greek cities were also setting up democracies, none were as stable or well documented as that of Athens. The reason for why the Athenians moved toward a democratic society instead of an oligarchy or monarchy is still debated by historians. However, one common belief is that it rose due to a rapid population growth in their lower class, which may have caused them to have more power in the government compared to other Greek poleis during the Lyric Age. This time period took place between 800 and 500 B.C.; it represents a very vibrant, evolutionary stage in Greek history. The rise of the lower class in Athens probably did help spark ideas of democracy, yet the significant contributions of the political leadership of Solon, Cleisthenes, and Pericles can undisputedly be credited for the primary development of Athenian democracy. In 594 B.C., the first major political and economic reformer Solon came into power. The next reformer was Cleisthenes; he lived from 570 to 508 B.C. The final, and most revolutionary of the three was Pericles. Pericles is responsible for the last and most glorious stage of Athens. By expanding its power and building patriotic pride, he forever changed the system of democracy.
Toward the end of the Lyric Age, Athens was on the verge of civil war. In an attempt to salvage peace, the Areopagus asked a man named Solon to be sole archon in 594 B.C. Solon was an extremely well ...

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...d, yet we kill each other.” We are our own worst predators, which is exactly what happened in Athens. It was their own democracy system that led to their downfall. It was one of the most amazing, revolutionary governments in history, yet too much of it led to poor tactical decisions. A Chinese saying purports too much of a good thing can become a bad thing: "Wu ji be fan". The best government system in ancient history caused its own downfall. When the masses held the power to choose, it resulted in a misinformed choice. On the other hand, when a tyrant holds the power, the government becomes oppressive and abusive. Neither is perfect, and both can be dysfunctional. These individuals have shown us that finding a perfect balance in anything is an ongoing trajectory of trial and error. We may never reach perfection, but with each change we move a little bit closer.
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